CM on Books and Reading

Dear Reader,

I am slowly working through Charlotte Mason’s original homeschooling series, looking back at things I underlined when I read through them. Here is a quote from the second volume, Parents and Children:

“Once more, we know that there is a storehouse of thought wherein we may find all the great ideas that have moved the world. We are above all things anxious to give the child the key to this storehouse. The education of the day, it is said, does not produce reading people. We are determined that the children shall love books, therefore we do not interpose ourselves between the book and the child. We read him his Tanglewood Tales, and when he is a little older  his Plutarch, not trying to break up or water down, but leaving the child’s mind to deal with the matter as it can.” [Parents and Children (Seven Treasure Publications, 2009) p. 116]

How many times have I observed that Charlotte dealt with the same issues we face? It’s a lot (see this post on standardized testing for an example). And here too she observes that children are not reading enough. Sound familiar?

And what is Charlotte’s solution to this problem? It is not to make the books simpler by watering down existing books. Nor is it to produce new kid-friendly books that will appeal to our children. Rather, it is to give them real, substantive books and to not try to come between them and the book. To step back. To not over explain.

Charlotte does not dwell in this quote on the nature of the books themselves beyond her two recommendations. But in a time with so much kid lit available, I think it is important to make the point too that we need quality books that to not cater to baser interests and also that do not get too preachy and psycho-analytical with the children. I recently read this article on boys and books and why they don’t read anymore. I am still thinking about it all,  but I think the author makes a good point that boys need action stories. They don’t need touchy-feely books. I think Charlotte would agree. She was definitely opposed to being too introspective or inciting this tendency in our children. In contrast, we have become a very introspective society that loves nothing more than to analyze oneself using pop psychology and then to talk about it on TV.

Good books are good books (I have a post on that too here). There may be a few classics that I don’t like (I have never been partial to the Brontes) or that you don’t. But if a story is good and inspires the mind and sparks the imagination, it is going to do so for our children as well. We need to give them what is best. They are probably better off to read a few good books anyway than many mediocre ones. A warning though that is children have been fed on junk, they may have a taste for it, and getting them now to appreciate real, nutritive reading may be harder. But it is worth doing.


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